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Back home Clare was waiting patiently for me in my bedroom. Landon offered to speak with her for me but I told him no. He petted Bast goodbye and kissed me on the forehead before exiting. His car wasn't parked outside, so I knew he was walking home alone.
Upstairs was a mess. There were clothes trailing the hallway leading to Clare's room, showing she either just got home or didn't care to pick up her things. By the relaxed expression on her face it was the latter possibility.
"Hey… Clare…" Compared to her room mine was immaculate. My father must have been the clean one since I clearly didn't get my minute case of OCD from her. Unless, by chance, her disorder was keeping everything messy.
"Your little rainbow friend called," she muttered, picking at my bedspread. I slapped her hand gently to stop her from pulling out the small thread in the comforter and making a hole in it.
Rainbow friend? I nodded slowly as the assumption Sophia had called came to mind.
"Thanks for telling me?" She seemed off. I wondered what it could have been. What brought on this new mother?
She nodded, stiffly standing. I sensed Bast entered the room, as Clare always reacted this way when Bast was nearby.
"She told me you're going somewhere with her… but she didn't mention the where."
So this was the reason she seemed off today. But why? I always seemed to be ditching town and going on an adventure these days. Why all of a sudden was she acting so weird?
"Yeah," I nodded, trying not to get angry. But her nonchalant and distant mood was making me bitter. "New York City."
"New York?" Her face went white.
Did I say something wrong?
Clare was frightened suddenly. Her eyes were wide with terror and her skin becoming a sallow, sick color. Her fingers were clenching a clump of my coverlet so hard her fingers were blanched white.
"Err," I stepped backwards, now in the middle of the doorway. This was a safe place to stand, in case the need to run arose.
"You're not going!" she yelled, standing up in a rush. Hastily she grabbed my arms, and pulled me back into the bedroom. I stiffened in shock, scared of her reaction.
"I need to go," I said. I did. But what if she asked why I needed to go? I hated lying to her, yet sadly it came so easily for me these days.
"You need to stop going places. You need to get yourself together. Besides, New York isn't safe. Especially for a girl like you."
A girl like me? That was one of the worst insults she could ever come up with.
"Thanks," I said sarcastically. She stared at me in wonder, questioning my tone. Obviously she didn't think her statement was an insult.
"I am too going," I snapped. "You can't make me not go. I'll have Landon pay for me to go if it's money issues. He's not coming if you're worried about that. Sophia will be there if you're still worried about Kingsley."
"I'm not worried about anything," she hissed. "Not those things anyway."
Now I was the one questioning her tone. "You're creeping me out," I said. "Why can't I go? Give me one good reason."
"People are dangerous there. They could hurt someone like you. You don't know what it's like there."
Rolling my eyes I pushed her away. "London was more dangerous, Clare. I think I can handle myself. Besides, I also have Sophia and Kingsley to keep me company. I doubt they'll ever be leaving my side. It's fine."
She snarled. "You're not going. And that's final."
"You can't stop me," I said. Or could she? If she called the airport and told them not to let me get on will that work?
"I can too. I'm…"
Her eyes glazed over.
"You're…. what?" What was with her? There was something off even now, even after her nonchalant attitude was disturbed with her raging one.
For a fraction of a second I thought she was a Rebeller. That was crazy. I laughed out loud at how insane I sounded in my head.
"Is it too much to ask," she paused; her voice so low I had to lean in to hear her speak. "Is it too much to ask if you listen to me just this once?"
Frail Clare was a terrifying sight. I trembled from her now icy touch. All of a sudden she was another person, as if something walked through her and turned her inside out. Now she looked even more ill and pale, and her grip had loosened into a shaky hold.
"It's too much to ask for me to do something without a proper reason to do it," I replied, moving over to the bed, hoping she wouldn't follow me.
She didn't. Instead she stood in the middle of the room, looking like an old woman, in place of the forty-two she was.
"I spent most of my teenage years in New York, Aria. I know what's out there. There are worse things than Lycans."
I'm sure I can take them. If I said that out loud I'm sure I would have angered her even worse. She already looked old enough to be my grandmother now; I didn't want to make her look like she could pass off as my great grandmother.
"Name one," I muttered, hating how my mouth spit out words like fire when my mind was still coming up with something civil to say. If I could punch my mouth without hurting myself in the process I definitely would have done it over and over by now.
Her eyes met mine, a pale blue color that I never saw in them before.
Ignore her. Go anyway.
I jumped from the sound of those words in my mind. They weren't my voice, but one I should have been used to by now. Eve wouldn't quit bugging me, would she?
Go away. I'm having an argument with my mom. Just leave my head this very minute and I won't scream.
She left, however. To my satisfaction.
"I'm sure you've seen enough cop shows to know what's out there in the real world, Aria," Clare mumbled. "But I suppose you want to be an ignorant, selfish child."
That stung. I grimaced from her eerie glare.
"You think because I don't like knowing there's a war going on in the human world, or that humans are dying all the time in cities like New York that I don't care? That I'm being selfish?
"Listen here, Clare, I'm not being ignorant, and I'm definitely not being selfish. I'm just focusing on the fact that I'll never be a human ever and so why should I let that bring me down when they're dying left and right and I can't even enjoy a nice day out with my boyfriend without worrying that the wind will expose my secret?
"It's called living for the moment. Enjoy the day, because tomorrow a giant bomb might fall on your house and you're gone. Or, in my case, a really scary Lycan comes running into my kitchen and eats me."
Silently she gaped at me, like always whenever I would burst into a fiery rant. I couldn't understand how I always would start screaming and yelling things that I never remember afterward mostly only with her, yet I still did them despite my best efforts not to. My mind and my mouth were never fully connected.
"Just," she groaned, taking a few deep breaths, "go. Do whatever. I don't care anymore." With that she stepped out of the room, slamming the door behind her.
Falling backward onto the bed I gazed up at the ceiling. Something had to change soon. I was getting sick and tired of fighting with Clare all the time and always winning.
Slipping into a sound sleep I dreamt of Landon. It was a perfect dream. There he was in all his glory, smiling with what appeared to be flowers in his hands. They were violets, matching his eyes flawlessly. I reached out to touch his face but every time I tried he would slip away, only to reappear behind me with the flowers still in hand.
I grabbed them, however, and pressed them to my face to smell. Instead my head began throbbing with the sound of a heartbeat, my own apparently. For, as my pulse sped up from the need to wake up and the shock of the dream, the heartbeat I was hearing also sped up.
"I thought I would never see you again, Aria," he whispered.
This dream had been dreamt once before. I remembered the setting well. To better grasp my surroundings I scanned the area for any sight of shadows or apples, like the dream before it. Then, as if on cue, the flowers in my hands shifted to a pile of apples. They slipped from my hands and into the darkness the grass had become. Everything was similar, especially Landon's tone.
He seemed to be waiting for me to reply to him, like in the dream before. I searched myself for what I had said last time. I remembered his words like they were said yesterday, yet my own were something that disappeared into the remnants of my muddled memory.
"Err, why would you think that?" I winced, hoping it would pass as what I had said before.
His hands reached out to take mine, his fingers stretching as far as possible. I reached out to take his, but they kept missing, as if the air itself were slippery. To my despair I knew this time I wouldn't be able to hold him.
The darkness that ensued made tears dwell in the corners of my eyes, wishing to escape. They stung, but I had to be strong in this painful nightmare. I hated when he would say those simple words I thought I would never see you again.
One of the apples flew into his hand, like magic, and he chomped into it without a thought. I gulped, watching silently.
His blank expression pushed me over the deep end, and one simple tear slipped down my cheek.
"After finding the truth," he stated simply. "I thought you wouldn't have wanted to be with me. I am so glad you are." His beautiful smile, like the last dream, came upon his elegant face.
"What truth?" I had to ask, my eyes searching his. This time he did not cry. I was the one who was tearing up, knowing that I probably was going to get woken up at this precise moment like the time before. With my luck he wouldn't even open his mouth to speak this time around.
He couldn't be more perfect and depressing at the same time could he? I wanted to touch him, even if all I would receive was a chill in return.
"The truth about me. The truth that made our lives break. You honestly don't remember?"
I shook my head. Why was I dreaming this?
His sigh was a beautiful sound. It was better than the sound of my heartbeat in my head at least. Now I knew how Landon must have felt all the time. The sound of my heart was annoying.
"Time will tell you the answers in which you seek, but I warn you, you won't like them," he said, his smile cracking. "I promise you, however, I will always love you. Despite the agony that is to come, my love for you will never fade."
Despite the agony that is to come…
Sigh. I hated cryptic dreams.
"I won't stop loving you either," I said, trying to grab his hand one last time. My fingertips scraped his skin, the ice welcoming me instead of the fire. Glancing down at my hands I noticed they were now bleeding a dark red, showing he had done what he always feared. He hurt me.
This nightmare had to end. Now.
His curdled laugh scared me. I shrunk back from him into the corner of the small 'room' we were in.
"Don't be so sure of that," he said, coyly grinning.
I jolted awake from a knock at my door, tears having stricken my cheeks in reality as well as in my sleep. Wiping them away, I tottered towards the door, opening it with a shaky hand.
I had to clear my throat multiple times, stinging my throat in the process, before I spoke to Clare. She, of course, was the one who knocked.
"Yes?" Even after my attempts at making my voice less scratchy, the raspy sound that was uttered from my lips still made me wince.
Her eyes shyly met mine momentarily before she shifted from side to side. My brow wrinkled at her odd attitude.
"I forgot," she said, her voice just as gruff as mine, "to mention about Amsterdam."
My face brightened. Could my wish have been granted? Were we not moving? Then my mood darkened again, knowing with my luck we were moving even faster than November. I just hoped we weren't moving in September.
"What about it?" Oops. I came off harsher than I intended.
"We're not moving in November," she muttered in a flash. "We're moving in January."
I gaped. "Wha?" I began dancing in place, but was cut short by both Clare's look of dissatisfaction and my head accidentally slamming into the corner of the door.
"Some renovations being done to the new house are taking longer than I anticipated," she explained, as if I needed an explanation. I didn't care if we were being delayed because someone sneezed wrong – we weren't moving until January! That was all that mattered.
"So call the troops, or whatever the hell you do," she grunted, backing off and into her own room again. I heard the click of her door and resumed my dance, making sure to keep a distance from anything sharp. However I still stumbled over my own feet and face planted onto the floor with a thump. Lovely Clare didn't bother to check up on me, leaving me be to laugh off the pain.
I was ecstatic over the news, completely over passing the previous hours and dreams. None of that mattered at the moment. Just to know I had more months here with Landon was exactly what I needed to brighten my day.
Fumbling for my phone I dialed 1, Landon's number on my speed dial. The phone began to ring, and ring, and ring. I was still sprawled out on the floor when he eventually picked up. His heady voice brightened my day even further, compared to the scratchy and pathetic one I heard in my dreams.
"Are you okay?" he asked me immediately, surpassing the usual hello greeting.
"Yes," I giggled, much better than screaming from the agony surfacing in my legs and torso. They burned from the ache of falling.
"Good," he sighed. I almost bothered to ask why he asked me how I was, but quickly realized, yet again, the obvious.
"Guess what?" I was shaking with excitement now.
He laughed into the receiver, making me smile wider.
"What? I don't know."
"I don't have to move until January now," I squealed.
"That's great," he said, making an effort for enthusiastic. He failed tremendously.
"Are you okay?" I asked in return, sitting up. Propping myself up against the bed, I groaned from the pain in my back.
"It's just," something crashed on his end, "I would much rather prefer you not moving at all. But," a sigh, "I'll take what I can get."
This was true. I would much rather prefer not moving at all either. But, by January, who knows what might happen? I might have found a way to change Clare's mind by then, if by some miracle she learned to listen to my ideas and pleas.
"Would you care to celebrate?" I said, attempting to stand. Shakily I sat back onto the bed, tucking my legs underneath me. The burn hurt less the longer I was on the phone with Landon.
"No," he muttered. "I'm so sorry. I would love to, but I just can't. Too much things going on with The Council these days. I wish I could, but…"
"It's fine. I'll just celebrate with someone else."
"Why don't you call Peter?" he suggested.
I gawked at the phone, wondering if I heard him right. Did he just say that? Or was I dreaming again? Instinctively I tapped a finger on the phone, hearing his grunt on the other end when I put it back to my ear.
"Hello? Is this Landon? Are you seriously recommending me to hang out with Peter?"
"…Yes?" he chuckled, a low roar. "I'm also advising you to enjoy yourself. All right? Just do that for me?"
I rolled my eyes, as if he could see, and sighed. "I'll try," I said, doing my best not to smile while saying it.
"Ooh," he fretted with something on the other end. "No. Pick that one. Listen, I have to go. I'll come over tonight?"
The dial tone was on the other end before I even had a real chance to say goodbye.
I quickly dialed Peter before my mood soured any more. He actually had nothing to do, luckily, and said he was coming over at once.
Which, to my astonishment, was true.
There was a knock at the door before I bothered to get up off my bed to tell Clare he was coming over. Strange how quick – or slow – boys are.
Adjusting myself on every step I gradually made it down to the door and opened it with a jubilant smile.
He wrapped his arms around me before I was able to greet him properly, but I didn't mind. No. I enjoyed the contact. Even if I still would get jolts of electricity from his touch.
The shock subsided after a few seconds and I ultimately wrapped my arms around his waist as well, patting him square on the back when he wouldn't pull away.
"It's nice to know you're not leaving so soon," he smiled as I stumbled backwards into the wall. My back began to ache again when he shut the front door behind him.
"I agree," I said, hinting for him to follow me into the kitchen. We sat on the stools beside each other with wide grins on both our faces.
"So what would you like to do?" he asked.
I shrugged. "I need to buy groceries," I said, peering at the fridge behind him. "Want to go shopping?"
His lifted eyebrow told me I wasn't thinking clearly, when in fact I was. I was thinking I needed to eat food tomorrow and the day after that. My werewolf friends had eaten me out of house and home. Plus I knew Clare wasn't going to get the food. She had "dates" to pay for her meals outside of the home. I was left to fend for myself in the cereal aisle and produce section.
After a while of glaring Peter down, he finally was convinced by the loaded silence to join me on my escapade. Besides, what did he come up with to do? I wasn't in the mood for most of what he wanted to do.
In my car, which wasn't willing to start, he finally spoke again. I was crashing my palms into the steering wheel to even notice at first, until he tapped me politely on the shoulder.
"Earth to Aria," he laughed. I rolled my eyes and felt the desire to poke him, but soon the desire subsided.
"Have you ever played paintball?" he asked.
I shook my head. "No… Why…?" Oh no. Before the words even formed on his tongue the answer was crystal clear. I shouldn't even bother asking why anymore.
"No!" I yelped. "I'm not playing that. It looks dangerous. I heard a girl died because of it once."
He rolled his eyes. "That was in California," he said. "I'm sure it's more safe here."
Now I was rolling my eyes. Again.
"Really?" I said sarcastically, angrily ripping my keys out of the ignition. "Well, this car is dead."
He glanced down at the keys in my hand and then back up at me. "I can have my dad take a look at it later if you want," he said. "But first, please will you play it with me? A new place just came in and I really have wanted to go for a while now. Kingsley said okay, as well as Drake, but we needed another player. Please?"
I grimaced, my stomach curdling. "Err." How could I say no to the human? He looked so… fragile right then, staring back at me with his wide eyes and pouting lips. Damn him.
"When?" I said, caving in like a fool.
Shutting my eyes, I banged my forehead into the horn of the wheel, making a loud and obnoxious noise sound in the neighborhood. It was too late thinking people weren't staring now, as I'm sure they were at what was rudely disturbing their afternoon.
"After you come back from New York," Peter said with a happy tone. I was at least thankful I was responsible for that tone.
"Now can we go grocery shopping?" I asked, trying with the car one last time. My piece of junk immediately turned on and began to purr like it was brand new. I let out a breath of relief, petting the wheel as if it were Bast, and pulled out of the driveway.
The grocery store in Thurmont was a tiny one, especially compared to the ones in Baltimore. This was the first time I had ever been to it, even though it was closer. Peter wanted me to get to know the town I lived in better, since I rarely stepped foot in it over the course of my seventeen years.
"So what do you need at the store?" he asked, flicking the radio on and turning it high.
Reaching inside my pants pocket, I pulled out the list I needed, and handed it over to Peter. He made a face at the items on the list, which surprised me. What was on it was everything a normal person would get.
"What's wrong?" I said, trying to watch his expressions while also driving. It was tricky.
Without warning he threw the list out the already opened window. I gaped and smacked him in the chest out of frustration. I spent a good ten minutes on the grocery list the other day, and here he was ridding me of it, while littering at the same time.
"What you do that for?" I smacked him again.
His giddy laugh gave me chills. So random and odd coming from him, especially right then. Another of the many surprises I was getting lately.
"You're going to shop like a true teenager today," he declared, motioning for me to take a right. I did, still giving him the stink eye. "You're going to buy whatever, do whatever, and maybe even eat something before you pay for it."
Astonishment or shock weren't even the proper words for the feeling radiating in me from his words. Who the hell eats food before they pay for it? I also didn't think that teenagers shopped in any single certain fashion. Did they? I definitely had been missing out these past seventeen years.
"I'm guessing you're wanting to do something else after this, aren't you?" I eyed him observantly, making sure not to miss a single second of a facial expression. And now it was safe to, since we were in the grocery store's parking lot. Unless a shopping cart was coming full speed in our direction, I'm pretty sure we were safe where we were parked.
After a shrug, a smirk, and a flick of his hand he was exiting the car in silence. I followed after him hastily, hoping I would be able to decipher his mute gestures inside. Yet, unluckily, I was unfortunate to understand another single thing he did.
The moment he had a cart in front of him, strolling leisurely down the aisles, he pushed away all my inquiries on what else he had planned to 'celebrate' me getting a few more months in Maryland.
Clearly he had something up his sleeve, or else I wouldn't have bothered with the annoyingly repetitive questions. His haughty smile was giving him away as easily as someone shouting in a horror film.
He didn't begin speaking until he started to pile random things into the cart, or so I thought they were random.
"Hey, I don't like these things," I said, throwing the box of Pop-Tarts back on the shelf. "Or this."
He arched his brow as he placed the things I removed back into the cart.
"Have you even tried them before, Aria?" he laughed.
So he caught me. Truthfully I never wanted to, but I was suspecting today was going to be the day I were to try Pop-Tarts and Goobers for the first time.
"No," I admitted, "but they look disgusting."
Shrugging, he moved on.
I stomped after him in a haze of hormonal attitude. I wasn't going to let him get away with stuffing me with junk food. I spent most of my life eating certain junk food that at least looked edible and tasty. Even if Pop-Tarts, Goobers, and Cheese Puffs might taste good, they did look awfully unappetizing.
And just what the heck is a ho ho? The title of the food itself seemed to be insulting me.
"No," I said, throwing something back. "No," I repeated the process. "Ew, what the hell are these?" I gestured to some form of yogurt chip and threw them back as well.
"Oh my jeez Aria!" Peter finally snapped, shoving the cart into my stomach and then grabbing my arms. He shook them in the air for me, glaring me down as if we were in the security of my home and not in the middle of a public place with quite a few strangers looking at me funny.
The desire to stick out my tongue was almost too much. If I were with Landon I probably would have stuck it out, as far out as possible. Nonetheless, with Peter, I could barely even glance in their directions.
He himself seemed to make me uncomfortable. Was it because I knew he loved me? Or because he were human? Possibly even both?
A human in love with a monster. I should have been used to this by now, since I was obsessed with monster movies growing up. But it still felt strange and foreign since I was the monster and Peter was the human.
"You're seriously ruining this. Just sit back, relax, shut up, and let me get what's required for a normal teenager's eating criteria."
"But I'm not–" Peter planted a finger over my lips, which shut me up immediately. The stinging that came with the contact would have anyway, but his closeness was insanely maddening. I pushed him away from me the instant he let go of my arms.
"You're not what? Normal? Ha! You still deserve a Twinkie now and then. And have you even eaten a pretzel before? Your house is full of granny food." He began walking off again, the cart in front of him. All the strangers had turned their heads to face other things, but I could tell they were still thinking of me as they did so.
I began following after Peter again, hoping not to annoy him a second time.
Only once did he allow me to put something back on the shelves again, and that was the yogurt-covered potato chips a second time. After that he would scowl at me and shake his head any time my hand got too close to the edges of the shopping cart.
Eventually we were up at the front of the store, standing in one of the check out lines, waiting for our turn to pay. The cart was piled so high with junk food and drinks I was afraid if you removed one thing everything else would topple over and fall to the ground.
"Did you get everything we need?" I joked, smiling up at Peter. His only reply was an even bigger smile and a moving of the cart, up to the front of the line that was now nonexistent.
The man behind the counter, scanning all our items, widened his eyes in amazement at the lineup of all our items. He scanned the six-pack of something and then glanced back up at both of our blank faces.
"I.D. please?" he said, hand open for one of our cards. Peter stood on his toes, leaning over the register to see what was scanned, and made a face at me.
"Aria," he frowned. "I told you to get root beer."
My face flushed. "But… I… I… You told me to get a thing of beer."
"Root beer," he groaned, picking up the beer off the scanner. "I'll be back. Don't go buying cigarettes while I'm gone."
One more eye roll and he disappeared between the aisles again, leaving me with the creepy guy who worked at the grocery store. He was staring at me rudely, which made me immediately raise my hands to my wolf ear, to make sure it wasn't showing. Luckily it wasn't.
"He your boyfriend?" he asked, his eyes scanning me over. I winced and shook my head.
"No. My boyfriend's twice his size."
With perfect timing, Peter reappeared with the right drink, placing it beside the cashier's hand. The boy's eyes were even wider now after what I had said, but he didn't persist asking any more questions. Noiselessly, he scanned the rest of the items, and gestured for Peter to slide his credit card.
"You have a credit card?" I gaped. I didn't think he would get a credit card so soon, seeing as he just turned eighteen in the beginning of August.
Laughing off the embarrassment, Peter gave a weak smile to the cashier. "She doesn't get out much," he said, trying to make up for my unnatural attitude to society. Punching him in the chest over and over was too good to deny, hard to resist. I managed to not hurt Peter. For his benefit. To not embarrass him further.
"Do you need help out?" the boy offered, but gestured to someone else to come to get the cart. The new person looked even more frightening and impervious to your opinion on staring, and I wasn't willing to get stared at rudely for one more second. So I grabbed the cart myself and gave a winning smile to whoever was bothering to look at it.
"No," I said, "we're good."
Pushing the cart forward I groaned and struggled to make it move. All the items we had bought filled it up so much that I wasn't strong enough to push it any farther than the inch I had gotten it to go. Struggling further, I completely ignored anyone's peering eyes, striving not to sour at the fact I couldn't even push a cart out the grocery store doors. How pathetic.
"Here," Peter replaced me as the driver of the cart and pushed it forward with ease. He made it look so easy. I huffed at the hair in my face, my hands crossed over my chest, and grumbled in his footsteps.
As he steered through the parking lot to where my car was parked I couldn't help but notice everyone else in the parking lot was circled around one car in particular. One car that looked very familiar…
"Peter," I hit him in the arm to grab his attention. He turned to see what I wanted. "Peter, what do you think they're all looking at?"
His shrug strangely infuriated me. "I don't know. But let's not waste any time around this place any more. I know of the perfect place to eat all this junk food at."
"Okay," I said in a daze, trying to catch sight of what had captivated everyone else's attentions. There was no opening in between any of the bodies thrown together to catch sight of the thing in the middle of them all. For all I knew there was a dead body on the roof of the car.
"May I drive?" Peter asked; hand outstretched to take hold of the keys, if I even thought to let him drive my car.
It was something I was uncomfortable with, letting someone else drive my car. The good ole' thing rarely even liked me, let alone someone else. But, I was more worried right then about losing focus on the road and getting lost from Peter's nondescript directions, so I handed over the keys with a sigh.
"Thanks," he muttered, beaming and entering on the driver's side. By the time I got into the car myself everything was packed up in the back. I hadn't even realized he was packing the car up with all our groceries while I was staring off at the car across the parking lot.
"Where are we going?" I said, buckling up, turning to him and trying to pay no heed to the car as we passed. I averted my eyes when someone tried to stop us, as I knew Peter wouldn't have stopped anyways. There was no point in seeing the disappointment in the person's face.
"Surprise," I finally said to myself, knowing Peter all too well. He said nothing, did nothing that suggested he was going to let me in on the only thing he could keep secret for me – at least for a time – and turned the radio up higher to drown out any noise that I would make.
Of course I would make not a single one.
The rest of the car ride passed in a blur.
Peter parked the car in front of a fast food joint that looked vaguely familiar to me, and handed me a few bags of groceries to take to wherever we were going. I made it to our destination in a haze, without a single scratch from any of the twigs and branches that had cut me the first time I wandered this trail.
We were at the small creek I remember having found myself at less than a year ago with both Kingsley and Peter. Odd memories rushed into my mind, both happy and sad. Sad for the reason why we were here and what Peter had said that night, but happy because I was human.
"I see you remember this place," Peter sighed, reaching into one of his grocery bags and pulling out the root beer. "I was hoping you would. Care to sit down? Or do you enjoy standing more?"
My legs began to buckle underneath me as I crossed the water and sat on the drier side of the creek. Peter sat beside me and handed over one of the cans. Another flash of memories came to mind. Drinking. Laughing. Being an idiot. That was the first and last time I would ever drink.
"Do you remember why we came here the last time?"
I nodded. "Brandon. Yeah, of course I remember. I don't think I'll ever be able to forget."
Opening the can Peter had offered me, I lurched forward to sip what was seeped out of it quickly. Laughing, Peter opened his can, having to do the same as I once he did.
"Do you ever think you could love me in return?"
Wide-eyed I swallowed what bit of soda I had in my mouth, which I almost spit up, and frowned. "I'm sorry," I shook my head copiously, "but I can't answer that. It's… I… No… I just can't. I'm sorry."
Too much caffeine inhaled in such a short time. Wiping my mouth, I dropped my eyes to the creek floor.
"It's fine. Stop apologizing," he said, laughing it off. "I knew better than to have blurted that out at you. Great. Now it seems I've ruined the day. Stupid Peter." He knocked himself on the head with another laugh.
I blushed, knowing how awful I was for sitting here when I knew how much he loved me. How much he cared for me. Was it bad that I partly didn't care, and sort of enjoyed him having these feelings for me?
"Hey," he took me by the shoulders, knocking foreheads with me. "Stop moping. We don't want to remake any old memories here. We want to make new ones. So let's make new ones. Here."
Reaching inside one of the bags I had on the opposite side of me, he pulled out two Twinkies.
"Have you ever had one before?" he raised an eyebrow at me with a coy smile.
"No," I answered honestly, taking one with a grimace. It looked disgusting and reminded me of the old yellow school bus I had to take in elementary school. "Do they… taste okay?"
"Well, I can't pronounce a single thing in their ingredients so…" He tapped his chin, pretending to think hard. "They taste great!"
A minute laugh slipped out while I was making an effort to look disgusted by the thing in my hand that was considered something edible. Peter poked at my cheek with a crooked grin and then opened his mouth wide.
"Okay, ready to eat one? This is the best way how. Just stuff it all in your mouth at once in a quick movement." And so he did. Amazingly. It all fit. He stuffed the entire Twinkie into his mouth, shutting his mouth as he chewed it, and attempted to speak with a hand in front of his mouth.
"Your turn," he mumbled with a mouthful of food.
I opened my mouth as wide as I could manage and attempted to repeat what he had done, amazingly doing it also. The Twinkie tasted all right, a bit bland and flavorless through most of the chewing I did. Peter tried to get me to speak with it stuffed inside, but I was afraid it would all come out if I tried. So I left my mouth shut, with both my hands in front of my lips, making sure nothing came out accidentally.
"Now," he said proudly, "you gulp down the soda. It rinses your mouth free for the next thing we're going to try."
"Next thing?" I said, gulping with enlarged eyes. He shook his head and put my can of root beer to my face, signaling me to drink first.
After a few good, long sips he removed the can and replaced it with a bag of sour gummy worms. Honestly I never had one before in my life. I placed one simply on the tip of my tongue, wincing, awaiting the stinging sour comes with.
It tasted sweet in my mouth, then slowly melted into a sugary bland taste. I chewed on the piece until the flavor eventually died, swallowed it, and then threw a couple more into my mouth afterward. Delicious.
"You're hooked now, aren't you?" he inquired, impishly grinning. His eyes glowed as I stuffed my mouth with a third helping of the worms, rinsing the flavor out with the root beer and reaching out for the next thing in the bags.
Lays chips. I had these before, so many flavors too, but I pretended I never once had a single one, to satisfy Peter's quest for feeding me food I never had before in my life.
There were so many kinds. So many different things I never had before. I suddenly was beginning to take in just how much I missed out on life being kept a secret in bedroom.
Last year was the first time I ever had cherry coke. This year was the first time I had sour gummy worms (or any kind of gummy candy). Unbelievable. Tears formed in my eyes but I swept them away before I bothered to look like I were crying.
"Skittles next?" Peter asked once I finished the small pack of chips in my hand. My brief nod caused his smile to broaden and he picked up a Skittles bag and threw it at me.
One bite and I threw them back at him, reaching out for the next thing in the long line of junk food he had bought. The amount of food he had bought was astounding as I finally peeked into the bag closest to me. It was piled to the top with dozens of different things of unhealthy things, and there were about six bags identical to the one I was looking in.
With a sip of my root beer him and I went to the next thing on the long list of junk food. He was smiling happily when I ripped open a package of Twizzlers. They tasted delicious, a strange bitter and sweet mix of flavor.
Mike and Ike.
Rice Krispies Treats.
The list went on and on. By the time I ate most of everything the sky was just beginning to darken. It was late in the day and I was falling to sleep from the amount of food I piled into my stomach.
Feeling like the size of a garbage truck, I laid flat on the ground, staring up at the clear blue sky. Peter mimicked me, his head pressed close to mine. I scooted away a fraction of an inch, enough to show we were simply just friends.
"Will Landon be bitter the next time I see him?"
"What?" I glanced in his direction, catching a distressed look. "No. Actually he's the one that suggested me to call you. I mean I was going to call you, seriously. It was shocking. I actually thought he was someone else for a minute. But he still… he said for me to hang out with you… Am I making any sense at all?"
He laughed, one of those true laughs where your stomach begins to hurt and tears form in your eyes. I hadn't felt one like that in a while, and so I watched him choke on his breath and suffocate from the way his shoulders shook and his wheezing spewed from his mouth.
The sound exiting his lips was a nice sound, but I tried to focus on something else – anything else.
Drake didn't say it in so many words, but he was right. I was avoiding my emotions. Even now. But I had better reasons than sadness.
Peter loved me, and I merely felt a friend love for him, nothing more. I wanted to be with him forever, but as best friends. I could see in his eyes, even now, he wanted more than that.
"Why do I love you?" he whispered, in between puffs of air from his break on laughing. In his eyes the tears no longer belonged to his fit of hysterics, they belonged to the sorrow I tried not to feel every minute of every day.
"I… I honestly don't know." It was worse than saying nothing. Should I apologize? Was it even a fault of mine? I got someone to fall in love with me by being strange, a freak, weird, evasive, and a monster. How the hell did that work out?
"Did you enjoy our day of snacking?" He looked up at me from the odd position he was sprawled out at now. The tip of his hands were in the small creek, and his hair was just lightly getting wet. I stretched out to take one of his hands, but retracted it when I realized this was one of the small things I did that lead up to what he felt for me now.
"I did," I smiled, attempting to make him smile in return.
No smile. No frown. A blank stare up at the still bright sky. Up in the sky was one particular cloud that made me shudder and drop my gaze. It looked awfully similar to Thomas. Or whatever other Lycans I've faced.
"Can you believe I start college in a year? It's a bit shocking. Knowing that a year from now I'll be in some other city, with none of my friends. You and Kingsley will still–" He stopped himself, to my gratification. I sensed he was beating himself up on the inside. I would have told him to not be sad, but my voice was a whimper when I opened my mouth to form words.
"Oh," he muttered under his breath. "That's right. I won't have any friends next year. They'll–" Again he shut his mouth mid-sentence. I wanted to tell him it was alright, I wanted to tell him anything really, but all I could do was make a croaking sound with my throat.
"Damn it." Infuriated he sat up, disheveled hair with dirt covering his entire back. "Damn it, Aria. Why can't you do anything to stop this from happening? Isn't there something you can do? I'm sure Landon could. He's pretty handy with being fierce, I'm sure."
I sat up too, my hair probably just as messy.
"He doesn't know," I said in a mousy voice. Quietly I dabbed at my eyes, ahead of time of the tears, in case any wished to come. I'm sure they would sooner or later.
Looking up at Peter I met his cold eyes. They were blaring at me with the silence the rest of him gave me. I recoiled from his glare. It was ferocious, as if he could kill me with the set of beautiful brown. The color, however, in this light, was an almost black. The shade reminded me of Landon's wolf ones.
"He doesn't know? How the hell would he not know? Aria!" Peter slammed his fists on his lap and rose to his feet in fury. I thought, for a moment, he was going to start back towards the car. Instead he walked to the opposite side of the creek with his root beer and sat alone, fuming noiselessly.
"Peter–" My phone began to ring. Landon's ring. I picked it up slowly, mutely, hoping Peter wouldn't start screaming to get his voice heard while I was on the phone.
As I answered it, I worried he would.
"Aria?" Landon said before I could say anything. Who else would answer my phone? I didn't bother to ask out loud, afraid I would get some long lecture of how "that's not important."
"Here she is, your shining star. At your service." I faked a smile, even if he couldn't see. It was more for Peter anyways. "Is everything alright? You're breathing too heavily." Did he ever breathe normally around me?
Landon sighed into the receiver, his voice straining. I grew more worried by the second.
"Get to my place right away." At first I wanted to tell him I was having a good time with Peter and I didn't want to see him just yet. That would have been a humongous lie. I was having a wretched time, as of five minutes ago, and I wanted to be held in Landon's arms until my skin began to burn.
"Why?" What was so important about getting over there quickly? And why was he pleading, instead of ordering? I suspected he was attempting being demanding, when instead he was clearly depressed and hoping I would just cave in and say yes.
"Where are you?" he said, evading the question. I returned that heavy sigh and shot a glance at Peter, averting my eyes when I saw he was staring back at me. His eyes were burning holes in my cheek, turning it a crimson red from the discomfort of being gazed at.
"With Peter. At a small creek in downtown Baltimore. Why?" Should I have paid more attention to the roads and addresses for him? But how was I to know he would call in such a dazed manner?
In a rush, he said, "Just hurry as quickly as you can over here. I don't have time to explain. Don't tell Peter anything, also. Tell him not to leave his house until you call him. I'm worried, Aria. Just get here now. Get my drift?"
"What's wrong?" I asked. Please answer moondamnit.
Silence answered me back.
Sigh. He wasn't going to tell me diddlysquat. I should have known. It was Landon I was talking to. If he thought it was safer to keep me out of the loop – which was often – he wasn't going to say a word. He was getting better at it over the months.
"Get here before sunset," he said. A demanding tone this time. "Or else I'm coming to get you and dragging you back here."
That was it. I knew he was serious. I also knew there was something seriously wrong. I packed myself up before I hung up, holding the phone so close to my ear. Behind the crackle of the phone line I could hear his deep breathing. Roughened.
"I'll," I gulped, then cleared my throat, "I'll be there. Soon. Promise."
There was a smile in his voice. "I love you."
This time I hung up. I could blame it on bad connection later if need be. But I wasn't about to say those three little words to Landon in front of Peter. Not there. Not then. It would have only crushed his already broken heart.
"Time to go." I groaned as I stood up.
Peter came over to help with the bags in silence.
"Did he suddenly have a change of heart about letting you around me alone?" he teased, tensing up when I snatched a bag out of his hand with a locked jaw.
Boys, I hissed. Glaring into his eyes, I decided to just piss him off instead of going for the high road and be gentle with him.
"Not everything has to do with you," I snapped. "Just…" His face soured and my moment of anger died with his expression. "Pack everything up as quickly as you can please?"
Unlike me, Peter picked up everything without speech involved. He hastily grabbed my arm, not my hand, and began to run towards my car. My visible skin got cut and bruised like the time with Kingsley, and I was speechless as he put his fingers into my pocket to take my keys out of it. Burning cheeks scalding skin, tingling pants pocket, I almost dropped the bags I held in my arms and fainted.
"What?" He watched me gape at him. He was taking charge. He was the one rushing us. He was the one who was calm, tranquil, and forgetting about everything else we had been talking about.
All I could do was hope he wouldn't take this opportunity to lean in and kiss me. Though that would probably just shock me back to reality enough to hurry like Landon wanted me to.
"I'm sorry," I mumbled, dropping my bags anyways. Grabbing him pulling him into a tight embrace, I cried silently into his shoulder. Dry sobs. Why couldn't real tears come out of my eyes anymore?
"Do you think I should be worried?" His eyes were watering, showing he was silently crying. I hated it when Landon cried. This was worse.
His cold skin felt nice at the arch of my back and on my bare arms. I sobbed mutely into his shoulder until I felt my phone vibrate in my left pocket. The song that belonged to Landon began to play right after and I immediately let go of Peter to run inside the car. He dashed off after me, once he picked up the bags I had let go of.
Sniffling, turning the car on with ease, I said, "No need to worry. It's got nothing to do with that." I wasn't lying. I just didn't know.
"Is it too much to ask if you're alright? Or if you will be?" It was in his eyes he was worried. Even if I told him not to. Supposedly taking him home would be safer for him, but there was a voice in the back of my mind – my own, thankfully – telling me to take him with me to Landon's.
I said nothing more. Not during the entire car ride. I was too busy contemplating what was wrong in my head.
Were there Lycans nearby?
Maybe the Rebellers were getting feisty again?
Was Norman back?
Or was Landon just faking it, a really good faking it, to have me all to himself?
Sadly I was hoping it was one of the first four. It was too painful to think Landon would lie to me, make me worry, just to have some alone time.
My car was going as fast as it could, which to be honest wasn't very fast, when Landon called for the third time. Again I didn't pick it up, I just let it go to voicemail. I got an odd look given to me by Peter.
"What?" I eyed him back.
When I dropped off Peter I so badly didn't want to say goodbye. I wanted to just speed off with him barely even out of the car, to make him stay as I drove to Landon's. But then that same little voice told me to let him go. Honestly he was safer with his family in his human home.
With werewolves whatever danger was afoot would surely be twice as bad for him.
He doubled back to the car after shutting the door. I leaned over the seat and slowly, but surely, rolled down the window. It was stuck halfway but I still could speak to him without the glass in between us.
"Lock all your doors and windows," I advised. Landon didn't say it, but I'm sure he was probably thinking of something along those lines when he told me to take Peter home. "Oh, and don't leave your house until I call you?"
"Err," he blushed, for some unfathomable reason. "My first time in one of these supernatural dilemmas and I have to stay at home. I feel like the little kid that's told to go to the back of the class with safety scissors and glitter."
"You're human," I began to roll the window back up.
He mouthed a, "So?" as I sat back in my own seat again and sped off.
Landon's ring started a fourth time and it was beginning to annoy me. Before it was cute, like he was most of the time, but now it was bugging me worse than Clare's ignorance.
I picked it up while attempting to drive with one hand.
"I'm almost there," I said in a bitter tone. The desire to hung up was too good, yet I stayed on the line. I was happy listening to his breathing. But there wasn't any.
"I don't think you are," said the voice. Not Landon's voice but…
My breath caught in my throat and I slammed on the breaks, almost crashing into a tree. Inside my chest my heart was pounding so much I sensed it had to be worrying Landon.
The sun was setting quickly tonight. I glanced out at the horizon. Hues of ugly pink and beautiful orange and purple shined in the sky like silk.
"See you don't know where I live," the voice went on, "so how could you possibly be almost here?"
"Dad," I breathed. The word burned my ears, yet came out so smoothly from my mouth. It was comforting to say it, nevertheless painful. My dad.
This was the first time I had spoken to him since I found out he was my dad. Not some strange voice in my head that put me on the verge of insanity. However, him not speaking to me face to face was a bit unnerving just the same.
He sighed at the sound of the word as well. I smiled. A feeling my lips found unusual.
"I've missed hearing that word. Especially from you."
Then I could hear a crackling sound on the other end, and before I knew it, he was gone. There was nothing more than a dial tone.
"I love you, Dad," I said into the phone. At least maybe Eve heard it, and would forward my affection to him somehow. Or else I was seriously in need of a therapist.
Putting the car in reverse I was back on the road and on my way to Landon's. I was keeping in mind he was going to be cross with me when I got to his place, so I kept taking deep breaths until I pulled up into his driveway.
The sun was just about set when I put the car in park and removed the keys from the ignition. Well, tore it out and almost took the ignition with me.
I caught sight of Landon coming towards me when I opened the car door. He was outraged, jaw locked, chest rising and falling in a rapid manner, and eyes dark. Literally. They were his wolf eyes.
When he dragged me out of the car by my arm, almost ripping it off in the process, I could see fuzz on the back of his neck. He was that angry with me. So angry he was morphing to deal with the rage. Didn't he know that was worse?
"Aria," he growled.
Unexpectedly he threw me over his shoulder, his lips finding the curve of my neck for a small second, and he raced back inside the house. I was so dizzy, while reveling in the unpredicted kiss on the neck. An intoxicating mix of emotions I wished I could stop feeling. The nausea was beating out the tingling of happiness in my neck.
Celia locked the door behind us once we were officially inside. I put a hand to my head to keep it from falling off. My legs wobbled like gelatin beneath me and I faltered back into Landon's chest. He held me in his arms, so close I was warming up and calming down.
Once the room stopped spinning, and then after it went from two rooms to one, I caught sight of the full room.
We were still in the entrance, but it wasn't her room that interested me. It was what was inside.
At least a hundred people. I knew none, except for Aislinn, Celia, and the two goons that bugged me at the pack party last year. The ones that said I was hot, for a metamorph. Suddenly I was getting the impulse to punch one – or both – of them. Would Landon bother to stop me?
"What's wrong?" I gulped, my dry mouth irritating me. The wind from that quick dash was exasperating.
I glanced around at everyone, who shied away from my question. Landon wouldn't let me turn around to face him so I pinched him, as hard as I could, and repeated the question.
Were they deaf? Should I scream it in someone's ear?
"We know what you said," Landon said, soothingly. In my ear, too. I was weak in the knees again.
"Then answer me goshdarnnit," I huffed into a muscle on his arm. It was stiff, tense, bigger than usual. I hated that he was hurting so publicly. Did anyone even know? I never thought about that, not until now.
"Lycans," he muttered, in a low tone near my ear. I could feel his stressing breath on my neck and I struggled to turn around. It was uncomfortable not being able to face him, especially when I was stuck having to stare at a whole group of strangers that were staring right back.
"They're on the rampage tonight," he added when I motioned for him to continue.
With that he let me squirm in his arms until I was comfortably facing him, my back turned to everyone else. It was better that way. They shouldn't have been staring so rudely anyways.
Or were they waiting for something?
Celia double-checked on the door, then the windows. I wondered if Peter was doing the same thing. A pang in my heart was telling me that a lock on the door or window wasn't going to keep the bad guys away.
I eyed everyone, who seemed to think it was safer now that the doors and windows were all locked.
"You seriously think you can keep Lycans out by locking the door?" I laughed. I didn't mean to, it was just inevitable.
"They're not coming in," Landon said grimly. "They're waiting for us to come out."